Day 25 – I’m In The Smokies!

Day 25

Start: Fontana Dam Visitor Center

End: Mollies Ridge Shelter

Miles Hiked: 11.8

Miles on AT: 177.9


Unfortunately, I’m starting this leg of the trail solo again. The fiance’s poison ivy hasn’t healed and actually looks a bit worse. He’s going to stay behind and get a doctor to check things out so he can heal properly. Bummer.

This morning I packed my bags and left a few things behind to lighten my load. I left my camp shoes, a pair of wind pants that I haven’t been using, and switched my bear can for a food bag since the shelters will have bear cables. I purchased and printed my Great Smoky Mountains National Park permit and then headed to the restaurant for some breakfast.

As I walked up the stairs, I could see other hikers enjoying their meals out on the front porch, but when I got to the server, they informed me they had just closed for the transition to lunch. Darn, I  missed a good breakfast by 10 minutes! A Clif bar would have to do.

I caught a ride back to the visitors center and started the walk across the dam. It was pretty cool! The blue sky was mirrored by the blue waters retained by the dam, fluffy clouds floated not too far off, and the air was fresh. What a great day!

I passed the sign that announced the Smokies and soon I was at the trailhead where I deposited my permit. Entering the Smokies felt like such a milestone! One of the most popular national parks in our country, it’s filled with so much history, biodiversity, and wildlife. I had never really been too interested in the Smoky mountains, but now, I was super excited! This was a major trail milestone.

As usual, to get back on trail, I needed to climb, and climb I did. I began my hike today at 1862 feet and would end my day at 4585 feet. That’s a lot of gain! But honestly, after all of the climbing I’ve done on this trail so far,  ~2700 feet of elevation gain didn’t sound too bad. The initial few miles of the climb were steep, but after that, it was a pleasantly strenuous hike.

The warm air felt wonderful, although at times it was a little too warm. Once I neared the top of my climb, the views started appearing. Peering out, the mountains were now fully green instead of the patched brown and green of early spring. The leaves are unfurling, flowers blooming, and mountains shimmering green with the product of spring. I loved it!

Back on trail, there were a number of hikers I had seen in the previous few days. I ran into Billy Bob at a water stop as well as a few other familiar faces. The day passed uneventfully, but I missed a lookout tower blue blaze accidentally. I was a bit bummed about that, but I guess there will be other towers for me to climb on the trail.

Today, there was no time pressure for me to make it to the shelter. I stopped when my feet were sore, chatted when I saw a fellow hiker, and ate as many snacks as I wanted to for as long as I wanted to. I was taking it easy today, no rush. Since I’m not doing a lot of miles, I’m focused on giving my body the time it needs to adjust to the terrain. I can feel it getting stronger, but I don’t want to push it too close to the limit right now. Plus, the trail is not a race; I will reach my goal, but enjoy the journey at the same time.

When I did arrive at the shelter, I was shocked to see so many people! By the end of the day, there must’ve been 30 or 40 people in the shelter and tented around it. There was a mix of everyone. Young and old thru hikers, casual backpackers out for a short trip, you name it. I’m still not used to camping around so many people, but I put my brave face on and found some people to chat over dinner with. The evening ended up being really nice.

Tomorrow, thunderstorms are in the forecast. I just hope I don’t get too wet.


And that’s day 25.


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